Monday, January 20th, 2014
American families are eating more meals at home, and those meals are healthier, a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found. The findings include that Americans are consuming fewer calories overall, family meals are becoming more common, and more people are paying attention to the quality of the food they buy. More from Time.com:
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You can thank the recession, but when the economy started to sour in 2007, Americans stopped eating at restaurants and started to cook more meals at home. And most families have been listening to the onslaught of advice about how to eat healthier, since those meals were also respectably nutritious. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, adults born from 1946 to 1985 who were asked about their diets from 2005 to 2010 consumed fewer calories and less cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
“It’s good news for us,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a press conference.
Concannon said that while meals at home still make up a minority of the average American’s diet, the trend is encouraging and hopefully represents the beginning of a shift in the way families eat.
Thursday, January 16th, 2014
A study of the factors that contribute to obesity among preschool-aged children has identified these three as the most predictive of whether a child will be overweight: inadequate sleep, parents whose body mass index (BMI) numbers classify them as overweight or obese, and parent-imposed restrictions on food that are intended to help them manage weight. Interestingly, the study, which was published in the journal “Childhood Obesity,” found that restrictions on both healthy and unhealthy foods were equal predictors of weight problems in kids. Researchers from the University of Illinois had examined 22 possible risk factors before making their conclusions. More from a press release from the university:
“What’s exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children’s weight status. We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime,” said Brent McBride, a U of I professor of human development and director of the university’s Child Development Laboratory.
The researchers reached their conclusions after compiling the results from an extensive survey distributed to 329 parent-child dyads recruited from child-care programs in east-central Illinois as part of the U of I’s STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program. The current research is based on the first wave of data generated in this longitudinal study, taken when the children were two years old.
The survey yielded wide-ranging information on demographics, health histories of both child and parent, and pertinent feeding practices. Research assistants also did home visits with each participant, checking height and weight and taking further information about the parents’ history. The data was then subjected to statistical analysis.
As a result of that analysis, McBride and U of I nutritional sciences graduate student Dipti A. Dev offer some recommendations for families.
Parents should recognize that their food preferences are being passed along to their children and that these tastes are established in the preschool years, Dev said.
“If you, as an adult, live in a food environment that allows you to maintain an elevated weight, remember that your child lives in that environment too. Similarly, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games instead of playing chasing games with your preschooler or playing in the park,” she added.
Consider too that restricting your children’s access to certain foods will only make them want those foods more, she said.
“If kids have never had a chance to eat potato chips regularly, they may overeat them when the food appears at a friend’s picnic,” McBride said.
Instead, work on changing the food environment in your home so that a wide variety of healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables are available while unhealthy options are not, he added.
“And remember that it takes a certain number of exposures to a food before a child will try it, let alone like it, so you have to offer it to them over and over and over again. And they have to see you eat it over and over,” McBride noted.
Don’t use food to comfort your children when they are hurt or disappointed, do allow your preschoolers to select their foods as bowls are passed at family-style meals (no pre-plating at the counter—it discourages self-regulation), and encourage all your children to be thoughtful about what they are eating, the researcher said.
Need some ideas to make school lunches or dinner healthier? Download our free chart to easily help substitute healthier foods into your family’s meals.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
Kids who throw food may actually be displaying signs they are learning, according to research from the University of Iowa. More from Time.com:
Researchers from the University of Iowa (UI) studied how 16 month olds learn the words for non-solid objects—things as oatmeal or applesauce or milk—that infants generally take longer to learn and found that those who messed with the substance the most learned the words more quickly. Babies’ brains usually pick up words for more immutable objects such as blocks, apples, or daddy, more easily because they can prod and pinch them and they remain the same, more or less, while non-solid objects are a bit more confusing. Think about applesauce: sometimes it’s shaped like a bowl, sometimes like a spoon and sometimes like a big blob on the floor. Or consider the similarities between glue and milk; if you didn’t touch them, they could seem pretty similar.
To test how toddlers learned the names of gloppy, changeable substances, researchers introduced 14 oozy items, mostly things the kids could safely put in their mouths, like applesauce, pudding, juice, or soup. As they offered the kids the items, they gave them made up names, such as “dax” or “kiv.” A short while later they asked the kids if they knew the name of one of the substances, presented in a different size or shape. Kids who could remember the name of the item were obviously relying on more than just what it looked like.
The kids who had really got their hands—and sometimes the walls or floors—dirty, seemed to be the ones who understood the differences in texture or viscosity better. All that fooling around was actually learning. It also helped if they were in a high chair. “It turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely you’ll get messy, because kids know they can get messy there,” said Larissa Samuelson, associate professor in psychology at UI, who with doctoral student Lynn Perry and others, oversaw the Developmental Science paper. “Playing with these foods there actually helped these children in the lab, and they learned the names better.”
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Monday, November 11th, 2013
Children who don’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night may be at higher risk of obesity, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The New York Times:
Researchers randomly divided 37 children aged 8 to 11 into two groups. Each group increased their habitual time in bed by an hour and a half per night for one week, then decreased their time by the same amount the next week. They wore electronic devices to measure sleep time, were assessed for daily food intake three times a week, and had blood tests to measure leptin, a hormone that affects hunger, and high levels of which correlate with fat tissue accumulations.
Children consumed 134 calories fewer each day during the increased sleep week than the during the week with less sleep. Fasting leptin levels were lower when the children slept more and, over all, the children’s weight averaged about a half pound less at the end of long sleep weeks than short ones.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
The Food and Drug Administration of the federal government has announced a that partially hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of “trans fats” in processed foods, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” in the U.S. food supply. The move is considered a first step toward a ban of the artificial fats in most foods, as CNN.com reports:
If the preliminary determination is finalized, according to the FDA, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives that could not be used in food without approval. Foods with unapproved additives cannot legally be sold.
Trans fat can be found in processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer, and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Partially hydrogenated oil is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make solid fats, like shortening and margarine. It increases the shelf life and the flavor of foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or shortening, was used in American kitchens as early as 1911.
However, in recent years many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products.
McDonald’s, for instance, stopped cooking its french fries in trans fat more than a decade ago. The company’s website says all its fried menu items are free of trans fat.
New York City in 2007 adopted a regulation banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and spreads in restaurants.
Trans fat intake among American consumers decreased from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012, according to the FDA.
However, “current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a written statement.
There is no safe level of consumption of trans fat, Hamburg said. It has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol.
Image: Margarine on bread, via Shutterstock
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